2013: The Year of the Woman?

19/12/2013 15:38 GMT | Updated 18/02/2014 10:59 GMT

The nation is becoming nostalgic. As December draws to a close, we are beginning to reflect on the previous 12 months of songs, soaps and celebrations that have defined this year. The media has highlighted the following as some of the most pivotal moments: Miley Cyrus' monopolisation of "the twerk", Justin Beiber's journey from boy to man and Joey Essex's inspired contribution to the English Language.

Alas, I am in no position to "confrontate" this media matter.

However, the most poignant reflection for me this month has been the celebration of some of the most successful women of 2013. Last week the Financial Times published a feature on "Women of 2013", profiling success stories in different professional and personal areas including broadcaster, survivor and campaigner. This is just one example of many. Amongst others are the Woman's Hour Powerlist, Forbes' Most Powerful Women of 2013 and the Women of the Future Awards.

Could we say then that perhaps 2013 has been The Year of The Woman?

So, when I enter "women of 2013" into Google, why is the first result Men's Health's "Lust List" of "smokin' hot" women of the year?

Maybe not then.

Admittedly, Google churns out similar results when searching for "men of 2013".


Now to find a different angle...

I read an interesting tweet in response to the Financial Times' feature. This Twitter - er, who shall remain Twitter handle - less, commented that if women want "true equality" then the "excessive" celebration of successful women should come to an end in order for their achievements to be accepted as the norm instead of regarded as exceptional.

Obviously I paraphrase - where possible I prefer not to limit myself to 140 characters.

I am a young woman who seeks out female role models. I need this media focus on successful women in business, broadcasting or otherwise. I need to know that there is a societal understanding that women are not yet in a position where their achievements necessarily result in appropriate recognition in the form of a promotion or otherwise. This media attention is vital. However, young women need more than an inspirational article.

We need a leg up.

I am very lucky to have had that support which lead me to be shortlisted for the Women of the Future Young Star Award as a result of my work in diversity. Too often, female success stories shirk the opportunity to mentor other women. It appears as though they regard themselves as Queen Bees who bask in the knowledge that they are the exception to the rule, the corporate diversity poster girl, the Laboutin clad leaders of the Marks & Spencer suited masses of men.

I just don't think that's fair.

By way of illustration, I am nearly two weeks into my placement at IBM. I am no longer under the pastoral student umbrella which does a good job of shielding its students from the heavy downpour of corporate politics. As I write this blog, I am sitting in an open plan office and am surrounded by men. I don't feel uncomfortable or undermined. But I do stick out like a sore thumb and that isn't solely down to the fact that I forgot my actual non - metaphorical umbrella this morning and look like a hobbit who stole Gandalf's best dress.

In short: if more senior women were given the time to invest in the next generation, maybe there would be more young women sitting with me.

God knows I'm dying to gossip about Topshop's new range and quite frankly, Gerald isn't interested. I think he prefers Blue Harbour.

On my tube journey into work, I took the time to reflect on the women who have used their professional successes to inspire the next generation. Women who haven't had a piece about them published in The Times, but who have gone that extra mile to encourage students by just taking the time to talk to them. These women have let down the rope ladder for their younger counterparts who have endeavored to start their ascension to great heights.

Miriam González Durántez is advocating just that. Miriam is working with a charity to create a network of role models to mentor schoolgirls. I saw Miriam speak at a Women of the Future networking event in November and her message was simple: networking events are great for you as an individual. However, as recognised women in your respective field, you have a duty to get out to schools, mentor students, sacrifice the occasional company cocktail party and start to pave the way for the next generation of inspirational women.

So, in response to said Twitter - er, I understand your frustration. But I think we have a responsibility to celebrate women's achievements, past, present and future until the day that a female CEO is appointed and it results in a double page spread about her professional credentials, not her personal life.